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Group at UWS school, Cambodia.Volunteering to teach with United World Schools in Cambodia

31st May 2019

An adventurous group from Kings Oxford and Kings Bournemouth recently returned from the trip of a lifetime, volunteering to teach children in one of Kings' charity partner schools in rural Cambodia.

Three Kings Oxford students — Chiara, Vicky and Kevin — were accompanied by senior teacher Sean Scatchard, and Kings Bournemouth's Academic Assistant Director of Studies Nicola Cranshaw, and group leader Sean shares their reflections on the trip.

Kings is proud to support United World Schools (UWS) by raising awareness and fundraising to build and sustain new schools in some of the world’s most disadvantaged communities.

The UWS vision is to 'teach the unreached', and that's certainly what it felt like! Sleeping in hammocks, washing with a bucket, and giving lessons in art, music and logic, plus drama and sport, there was never a dull moment.

When we returned from the trip, the students decided to give a presentation to everyone at Kings Oxford, sharing their enthusiasm to encourage others to get involved. Here's a quote from each of them about their experience and why they feel so passionate about supporting UWS.

Children in craft lesson.

Chiara

"I had a wonderful and life-changing experience in Cambodia. We were constantly surrounded by an extremely friendly and welcoming community and discovered the amazing culture and people living there.

I couldn't be more grateful and delighted looking at the kids smiling and being happy to learn new skills every day. It was extremely fulfilling and exciting to get to know them despite the language barrier, which I thought would be a bigger issue than it was.

The UWS team made us feel so comfortable being so far away from home. I can say that being a part of this volunteering trip had a real and valuable positive impact in my life. Teaching these children was the best way to give me even more desire to contribute to their development on a large scale."

Vicky

"The kids were so keen to learn. The school was supposed to open at seven in the morning but they were already there, waiting for us at five thirty. And in the afternoon school finished at three but they would still be there at six!

It was amazing to see their enthusiasm and I was so pleased to be able to help them. I hope we can all contribute to making sure they have a good future."

Kevin

"While in Kro Lorng there was a constant feeling of happiness. At the time I didn't understand why I felt so, but once back I realized it was a feeling that came from helping others and making myself useful.

Those children really want to learn and even the simplest everyday skills we've taught them were life-changing. This feeling of happiness is something that I am going to try to keep seeking, back in the United Kingdom and in Italy too, trying to contribute to their education from a distance."

Group in Kro Long village.

As group leader, I was amazed by the sheer energy and resourcefulness of our students. They were so enthusiastic that at times it seemed like they'd got the whole of Kro Long village dancing! Everyone at Kings is really proud of them — they were just fantastic ambassadors for what Kings is all about.

Equally, I found it really fulfilling to see such keen, happy Cambodian children so eager to learn. Education is the key to a better world for these people, so it's great to see them really making the most of it. Without our support none of this would be possible and those same children would be working in the fields.

Nicola had this to say:

"It was a complete joy to accompany the three students Chiara, Kevin and Vicky on this trip to visit our school in rural Kro Long. I have never witnessed such commitment and such a degree of willingness from students. They contributed to this project wholeheartedly; demonstrating maturity and a level of capability they can be proud of for the rest of their lives.

Both Sean and I were amazed to see how teaching in the village came so naturally and was a rewarding experience for them. In the role of young teachers, they made a huge impact on the lives of the children and this was felt and made clear to us when we heard such excitement from them as they arrived to school at 5.30am on our last day!

I am sure the Kro Long children will never forget this project and I will always feel grateful to have shared the experience with three incredible students... and one incredible teacher of course!"

Kings group with all the children waving.

In every aspect, this was one of those experiences that really reassures you of the warmth of the human spirit and the possibilities we have to make things better.

Find out more about Kings' partnership with UWS

 

Extracurricular activitiesOutside the classroom: the importance of extracurricular activities

28th May 2019

At Kings, students have the opportunity to participate in a variety of extracurricular activities, or 'enrichment' activities as they are also often known, alongside their main academic studies.

These activities range from participating in student councils and committees and nationally-accredited award schemes (such as the Duke of Edinburgh's Award), to joining clubs and societies. Kings Oxford students recently participated in an expedition to Cambodia to teach at one of our charity partner schools. The college offers a host of different options including sports clubs such as Badminton, Football, Ice-Skating and Yoga; creative clubs such as Image Editing and Guitar; and clubs with a more academic focus such as Debating, Engineering, Chemistry and Global Citizenship.

The Enrichment Programme at Kings also enables students to take part in both local and international volunteering and fundraising schemes, and to complete work experience placements if they wish.

There are many benefits that come from involvement in these activities and schemes, some of which are highlighted below.

Developing new skills

Whilst many enrichment options give students the chance to further skills within a specific subject or hobby, such as Maths or Photography, for example, extracurricular activities are also great for developing softer, more transferable skills. These can include skills such as public speaking, working in a team and time management skills.

Developing new interests

One of the great things about the Kings enrichment programme is that it can allow students to explore completely new interests that they wouldn't otherwise have been exposed to. They can also provide a great chance for students to broaden their horizons and their understanding of the world, particularly within the context of school which welcomes international students from a wide range of countries.

Helping students stand out within university and job applications

Extracurricular activities can help ensure students have plenty of evidence to include in both university and job applications that demonstrates they are well-rounded and have plenty of transferrable skills. For example, participation in Student Councils or on the Kings Business Enterprise scheme can show an ability to work as part of a team — or as a successful leader if a leadership position was held — and the determination to achieve goals.

Negin is currently completing a Medical Sciences degree at the University of Leeds. Speaking to us about her experience at Kings, she referenced how useful the enrichment programme had been when it came to applying to university.

"I did Biology club and UKCAT. UKCAT classes really helped me prepare for my UKCAT exam for entering the university. Biology club was more of a fun class that we could do exciting experiments that were not usually part of our study. I was also part of the Student Council.

In my first year, I was the head of Charity Committee and the second year I was the secretary. Writing about my responsibilities during this time in my personal statement helped me to show the universities that I have some experience in leadership, which was an essential skill for my course."

Complementing academic studies with a way to relax

Enrichment activities can often provide a very welcome alternative to the rigours and intensity of academic study. Undertaking activities that complement class-based learning with a more relaxed pace, or which help keep the body fit as well as the mind, can be of huge benefit to our students.

Providing opportunities for socialising

Being a member of a club or committee is a great way to spend more time with peers and make new friends. Given that extracurricular activities may be undertaken with people that students don't usually interact with, it also offers the potential to meet new people with similar interests and to build friendships outside of the usual circles. This ensures that social networks are widened, and that communication and interpersonal skills are honed.

Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural Development

The extensive range of opportunities available add to all aspects of students' personal development and well-being.

"Students' spiritual, moral, social and cultural development (SMSC) is promoted well across the college. Extra-curricular activities enrich and bring to life work taking place in the classroom."
— Kings Oxford Ofsted Report, 2019.

 

A-level physicsWhy study A-level Physics?

14th May 2019

With an ongoing shortage of people to fill STEM roles, pursuing subjects such as Physics can lead to excellent employment prospects after university. Even if you don't go on to become a physicist, learning to think like one will equip you with excellent problem-solving skills in particular.

Physicists look for the hidden laws as to why all matter and energy exists, where it comes from and its behaviour. These laws can then be used to develop new materials and technologies to improve our lives and explore further into everything from the tiniest particles to stars and the universe.

If you are interested in the limits of space, the beginning of time and everything in between this is the subject for you.

Physics is one of the Russell Group universities' 'facilitating' subjects — so called because choosing them at A-level allows a wide range of options for degree study.

What will you study during Physics A-level?

Specific content covered within A-level Physics may vary from school to school, and depending on the exam board followed. Within the AQA specification however, topics covered include measurements and their errors, particles and radiation, waves, mechanics and materials, electricity, thermal physics, fields and their consequences, nuclear physics, astrophysics, medical physics and engineering physics.

What skills will you get from studying Physics?

Physics trains your brain to think beyond boundaries. The subject combines practical skills with theoretical ideas. Analytical, mathematical and problem - solving skills become highly developed through Physics A-level.

What careers can studying Physics lead to?

Physics A Level and degree courses not only provide you with excellent career opportunities in the Sciences, Medicine, Engineering, Cosmology, Computing industry and Geology, but also in a host of other disciplines such as Management, Law, Banking and Finance.

 

Kings Oxford St Joseph's building.Kings Oxford college rated 'good' in new Ofsted report

22nd April 2019, first published in the Oxford Mail. By Sophie Grubb.

A college that prepares international students for university is helping learners to become 'confident and determined.'

That was the feedback from Ofsted after a visit to Cowley-based Kings Oxford, which has four sites in the city. The independent education provider in Temple Road was rated 'good' in all areas, following an inspection in late February.

A new Ofsted reports states:

"Students are confident, determined and sociable. They are happy and feel safe at all sites. Attendance rates are high because students enjoy college and relish opportunities to meet with friends.

Students are extremely well prepared for the next stage of their education and achieve the qualifications necessary to pursue appropriate university degrees."

Students at Oxford can learn courses including GCSEs, A-Levels, foundation degrees and English language courses. "Occasions such as lunchtime are convivial, sociable and communal affairs which allow students to enjoy social interactions."

The report added: "Senior leaders and directors are relentless in their desire for students to succeed. "They are uncompromising in their efforts to ensure that students are listened to, understood and respected."

Ofsted added that British values are 'rooted into the life of the college' and students' understanding of different cultures is strong. Inspectors wrote: "Teaching motivates students and keeps them engaged even at the end of the long school day".

 

University counselling.University Offers update

16th April 2019

2019 is shaping up to be yet another exciting year of success for students at Kings Oxford.

University Offers continue to be confirmed and it is interesting to see the wide range of subjects, prestigious universities and leaders in their fields for which our student have already received offers. Some of their chosen degree subjects and offer universities are listed below.

All students benefit from a structured and personally tailored University Application Programme. They are supported throughout the whole process by our team of experienced expert academics and counsellors.

Students’ choice of university may be influenced by a range of factors and are encouraged to explore their opportunities in detail. They are assisted to identify the most appropriate degrees and specialist institutions to meet their individual ambitions in their chosen subject and professional areas.

Subjects

Accounting and Finance; Architecture; Biology; Biochemistry; Biomedical Science; Civil Engineering; Computer Science; Computer Science with Artificial Intelligence; Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship; Diplomacy and International Relations; Economics; Electrical and Electronic Engineering; Engineering; Fashion; Fashion Marketing and Branding; Food and Nutrition; Graphic and Media Design; History of Art with Curating; History and International Relations; History, Philosophy and Politics; Hospitality Management; Interior Architecture and Design; Jewellery and Silversmithing; Language and International Relations; Mathematics; Mechanical Engineering; Mechatronics and Robotics; Media, Industry and Innovation; Media, Communication and Sociology; Media, Journalism and Publishing; Medical Sciences; Middle Eastern Studies; Modern History; Neuroscience; Nutrition; Optometry; Pharmacy; Politics; Psychology; Robotics and Automation and many more!

Leading and specialist universities

Arts University Bournemouth, Bath, Birkbeck, Birmingham, Bristol, Brunel, Cambridge, Cardiff, City, Dundee, Durham, East Anglia (UEA), Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Goldsmiths, Kent, Kings College London (KCL), Kingston, Lancaster, Leeds, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, New College of the Humanities, Nottingham, Queen Mary, Reading, Royal Holloway, Sheffield, SOAS, Southampton, Surrey, Sussex, University of the Arts London (UAL), University College London (UCL), University for the Creative Arts (UCA), Warwick, York and more!

 

The group outside Maison Cailler.Kings Oxford's Physics trip to CERN in Switzerland

10th April 2019

Physics students from Kings Oxford recently took a study trip to Geneva, Switzerland, home of CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research. Physics and Mathematics Teacher Latoya van der Meer reports back on their visit.

Our adventure began on 14th February with a smooth flight to Geneva and a train ride to Nyon, just outside Geneva, where our excellent hostel was located. 

The next day we caught an early train to Broc-Fabrique, an area in the Canton of Fribourg. We passed by the beautiful sights of Lake Geneva followed by glistening hills and mountains covered in snow. The students were really up for the first stop — tasting chocolate at Maison Cailler!

Here we went on a theme park-like walk taking us through the history of chocolate. Each area of the walk-through was decorated in the style of the era it discussed, from the ancient Incas to the French revolution, the great economic collapse of the 1930s, and Maison Cailler chocolate today. We could taste, feel and smell the raw ingredients, and listen to stories of farmers that cultivate them.

The budding engineers amongst us were fascinated with the robotic arm that picked up chocolates without damaging them from a conveyer belt, before another part of the machine would package them. The best bit of course was getting to taste an assortment of chocolates. It was amazing that some students didn't end up sick — you'd have thought that some hadn't eaten in a month with how many chocolates they managed to stuff down! Students commented:

"The chocolate factory was actually amazing with lots of information and contents, even more than I expected."

"It was outstanding, and also very educational when learning about how chocolate is manufactured."

Around lunchtime we took a train to Gruyères, where first we visited La Maison Du Gruyère which is a cheese factory.

There was much to learn here about how to make cheese, and we could watch the cheese maker stir the 'cheese' at the right time when the milk had curdled enough. We also received 6, 8 and 10 month old Gruyère tasting samples which we munched on as we walked around!

From here we walked up the hill to Gruyère village, a medieval town with a 13th century castle at the top.

Signpost to Gruyeres village.

The final part of the walk up to Gruyères village.

The students were free to explore on their own and make their own lunch arrangements. We caught a large group of them indulging in fondue at a restaurant set in a traditional Swiss Chalet. At 5.00pm we took the train from Gruyères back to Nyon, and the students had free time till 10.00pm for dinner in Nyon if they wished.

On Saturday we set out early by train and tram, to arrive in time for our 9.00am tour of CERN. We were given a lecture about CERN, its research facilities, experiments and aims. We then took a bus to visit the cryogenic test facility where the superconductive magnets that are part of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) are tested. We received a thorough explanation that allowed our students to apply what they learned in class.

"It was cool to finally see all we're learning in action. Visiting CERN allowed us to get a first hand view of the complexity of such projects."

The group outside the building.The group outside the building.

The cryogenic test facility where we took a closer look at the superconductive magnets employed at CERN.

We were subsequently taken to visit the control room of the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) which is a different particle physics experiment attached to the International Space Station. It is operated at CERN and contributes to our understanding of particle physics by detecting particles that otherwise would be absorbed by the Earth's atmosphere.

Group in front of the arm.

A group photo with the transport arm that held the AMS in place before it was sent up to space.

Before lunch we also visited the first of the two permanent exhibitions: The Microcosm. This was an excellent exhibition with many interactive displays.

Lunch followed at the CERN restaurant before a short visit to the second exhibition: The Universe of Particles. This was visually stunning, and accompanied by a short 6-minute film explaining the unsolved mysteries of the universe.

"The exhibitions were really fun and engaging."

This concluded our time at CERN and students spent the rest of their afternoon exploring Geneva before heading back home the next day. This was a very successful trip and we will be looking at returning in the future.

 

Paul Steele's advice for Medical school applicantsAdvice for aspiring Medical students

Paul Steele, specialist Medical Advisor and A-level Coordinator at Kings Oxford explains what makes a successful medical student.

"Aside from a very strong academic ability, students need to display strong supporting qualities. Together, this builds the kind of profile that universities look for in successful candidates. I counsel many Kings students on how to make themselves the outstanding candidate that they need to be to gain entry to a medical degree.

My starting point is always to ensure that students are clear as to why they want to be a doctor; What have they done that would lead me to believe that this is a genuine interest and concern, not just in the science but in caring and concern for others in need?

Work hard. The overall need is to do well in Biology, Chemistry and their other subject. A grades are a minimum requirement.

Take advantage of the opportunities that we at Kings provide to prepare you for the challenges ahead — UKCAT, BMAT, practice interviews, Medical School Open Days, writing powerful and effective Personal Statements.

Do not forget to work hard also on your English standard and understanding. Interviews, aptitude tests and university offers all rely on really good English.

Work with your dedicated mentor researching the differing Medical schools with their varying requirements.

Take advantage of any voluntary opportunities or work experience in caring for others. Universities want to see a history of commitment on your part. Work with our voluntary work advisor to find suitable placements.

Maintain your focus and commitment for the long haul. Training to be a doctor is a long process and demands tenacity, dedication and strong will. But the rewards are life-changing — for you, and those you will help throughout your career."

 

Anna Pogrebniak did an EPQ as part of her A-levels and she is now studying at King's College LondonAdding value with the EPQ at Kings

21st January 2019

The Extended Project Qualification or EPQ is it is more commonly referred to, is a standalone qualification which is often taken alongside A-levels. It is highly valued for progression to university and carries UCAS tariff points.

Through the EPQ qualification, students will complete a research project to explore an area of their own interest. At Kings this is usually directly related to their ambitions for further study at university and may be in a subject not offered at A-level.

By following an EPQ, students will develop and demonstrate a wide range of transferable skills, which can include:

  • project management, planning, research, critical thinking, analysis, synthesis, decision-making, problem-solving, evaluation and presentation skills
  • critical, reflective and independent learning
  • creativity, initiative and enterprise
  • responsibility
  • e-learning skills and the use of technology

The EPQ is assessed through a final project, report, dissertation, presentation or physical project with the following four learning outcomes:

  • Managing a project
  • Using resources
  • Developing and realising a project
  • Reviewing the project

The qualification is graded A*-E and carries UCAS tariff points equivalent to half a full A-level. It is highly-valued by universities. The Russell Group’s Informed Choices guidance advises that:

“Russell Group universities value the EPQ which can be drawn upon in your personal statement and at interview to provide evidence of enthusiasm for your chosen subject. Some Russell Group universities may also include the EPQ in their offers”

Many universities make dual offers to include an alternative offer with an EPQ. The University of Southampton were the first university to introduce an alternative offer scheme but there are now many examples; Queen Mary may provide a dual offer of ABB at A-level or BBB with an A in the EPQ.

For entrance to Medicine, Queen's University, Belfast will accept a grade A EPQ in lieu of their 4th AS requirement.

Other universities, including Oxford, may not make specific conditions for EPQ but do recognise the value it adds and encourage students to take it. Cambridge “welcome and encourage” the EPQ but “recognise that not all students have equal access to them and so completion of an Extended Project won't normally be a requirement of any offer made.”

Kings students continue enhance their university applications, using the EPQ to research a wide range of subject areas including English Literature, Fashion, Motor Engineering, Politics and Product Design.

Anna (pictured above) achieved an A in her EPQ project on Artificial Intelligence and is now reading Computer Sciences at King's College London.

 

A-level subjects

Choosing your A-Level Subjects

16th December 2018

One of the most difficult decisions students have to make to achieve their place at a top university is which subjects they should study at A-level.

Every student is an individual. Whilst there is no single recipe for success it’s sensible to choose subjects that demonstrate your ability, develop both your subject knowledge and transferable skills and that keep your options open.

Kings personal tutors and UCAS advisors are highly experienced in developing tailored study plans that ensure a genuinely satisfying academic journey and successful outcomes. Whether you are taking A-levels for the first time, resitting subjects or revising your study plan, come and talk to us to see how we could help you achieve your ambitions.

Here are ten top tips for success:

1. Do your research: Research which course best matches your interests and the subjects the universities require. If, like many students, you are not certain of your plans for degree, think about which subjects you don’t wish to pursue and check which doors that would close.

2. Don't limit your options: The prestigious Russell Group of universities published a guide called Informed Choices which explains in detail what they are looking for. We suggest that students typically choose at least two "facilitating subjects", with the third choice being more flexible.

3. Breadth of subjects is good: Avoid significant overlap, for example Economics and Business Studies.

4. Follow your interests: Students tend to be better at the subjects they enjoy and this should lead to a more fulfilling future career, but remember that two years is a long time and you might change your mind.

5. Play to your strengths: If you enjoy essay writing and research, then essay-based subjects demonstrate your communication and analytical skills and critical thinking. Science subjects demonstrate logical thinking and reasoning as well as building familiarity with scientific principles.

6. Consider studying a new subject: A-levels open up new subject possibilities, you may find a new area of study you find intellectually stimulating and enjoyable.

7. Know what the A-level course entails: Find out what exactly you will be studying over the next two years and how the course is structured. Kings London will provide advice and guidance but we are also flexible, it’s possible to change your mind if you start a subject and find it really isn’t the right fit for you.

8. Maths can be a winning choice: Universities value Maths and it is a pre-requisite subject for many degrees. Mathematical and statistical problem solving, data analysis and interpretation skills are used in a broad range of subject areas. If you have the potential to achieve good grades it is well-worth considering.

9. A-levels are more difficult than GCSEs: This may seem obvious but be prepared for a big jump in the focus, level of difficulty and possibly the effort required for each subject.

10. Get advice from the experts: Every potential A-level student should receive tailored advice from their current school, but we are always happy to discuss your subject choices. Our team are experts at helping students achieve their full potential and win their place at a leading university. Our students’ results and destinations illustrate their success.

 

Careers in Art and Design

What careers can a degree in Art and Design lead to?

20th November 2018

In short, when it comes to the world of work, there are endless opportunities for Art and Design graduates — both in terms of job roles and industries. Currently, it is estimated the UK creative industries workforce totals just over 2 million.

A variety of specialisms

Within the field of art and design, there are numerous specialisms — many of which are available to study as a specific degree course within some universities. These include Animation, Film Production, Interior Design and Fashion Design to name just a few.

Mariana sitting in front of the camera, in the film studio at university.Mariana Nascimento, from Brazil, chose to study a degree in Film Production at University for the Creative Arts after completing her course at Kings. Now working at one of the biggest and most well-known production companies in Brazil, Gullane, she commented:

"There I work in the development department, which is the part of the film process I have always wanted to work in. So far, I am in the path I was hoping to take on when I decided to work with Film.

Art school is great and will give you the best environment to create and get to know likeminded people. In case of film, more specifically, the British film industry is a reference worldwide and, in my opinion, does really well both commercial and more auteurist films, and that is reflected in the way they will teach you. Plus, the industry is really well established and you have the best resources to create and understand the different fields within."

Read the full Kings Life interview with Mariana

A range of industries and sectors

Whilst often a specialist degree can forge a path to a career within that specialist field, there are other courses within the realm of art and design which can arguably lead to a wider range of options post-degree.

Emma Charleston screenprinting in an art studio.For example, a degree course in Graphic Design can open up a wealth of opportunities, across a huge variety of industries. Working in the Central Marketing Unit at Kings, graphic designer Emma Charleston designs websites, brochures, and even signage within our schools, yet her skills would be equally as relevant and sought-after working for a travel company, a bank, or even a healthcare provider. Alongside her work at Kings, Emma is also an illustrator who makes and sells her own screenprints, lino cuts and letterpress pieces, as well as producing commissioned illustrations for clients.

Working in other artistic capacities

Whilst many graduates choose jobs which allow them to use their art and design skills in a practical sense every day, there are others whose career enables them to work in the world of art and design, but without actively working as an artist or designer. Teaching art, working as a gallery curator, or even as an art therapist would all fall into this category.

Valuable transferrable skills

It's worth bearing in mind too that completing an Art and design degree is widely credited with nurturing all-round problem solving skills, visual analysis, the ability to find creative solutions and make critical judgements, and the capacity to work outside your comfort zone — all of which means that art and design graduates have transferrable skills which are welcomed in a whole range of sectors.

Steve Jobs once commented that the secret to Apple’s success was the fact he had hired artists/ creatives with a passion for technology, rather than simply experts in technology. He is quoted as saying:

"It's in Apple's DNA that technology alone is not enough — it's technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our heart sing, and nowhere is that more true than in these post-PC devices."

It is worth noting that Apple's Chief Design Officer, Jonathan Ive, was born and studied in the UK.

Flexible working and freelancing

Certainly, one huge benefit of working in the field of art and design is that very often jobs within it lend themselves to freelance work as well as contracted employment. This can offer much more freedom and flexibility than other disciplines, and also enables people to take their skills all over the world if they wish.

The illustration above shows some of the many interesting, skilled and sought after jobs which Art and Design students can consider in the world of today.

 

Not just gradesSuccessful university applications: more than just grades

3rd November 2018

Securing a university place is a landmark moment in any student’s life and one which therefore requires plenty of thought and preparation.

University provides an opportunity to explore a specific field in greater depth, often providing the platform from which students launch their professional careers and marks a new stage of personal development and independence.

Given the importance of this decision it is essential for students to ensure that they gain the right advice and guidance, not only about the most appropriate degree and university for them, but also about the application, offer and acceptance process.

The extreme competition for places at the top universities means that applicants need to do everything in their power to set themselves apart. Proven academic ability is one obvious criteria. Published minimum entry requirements (expressed in terms of grades for A-level or equivalent level qualifications) are just that: the minimum criteria. Getting these grades does not mean an automatic degree offer from that university.

For example, Imperial College London publish a minimum entry requirement for their BSc in Chemistry as AAA at A-level, however, based on 2017 data, 85% of offers were made to students with A*AA-A*A*A.

To have the best chance of success, the applicant needs to showcase more than just good grades.

Imperial College London also explain that applicants are selected based on academic achievement and performance in admissions tests and interview (where applicable). Departments look for students’ motivation and interest in the chosen subject, with evidence of full background research. They advise that admissions tutors “are also looking at applicants’ potential to benefit from – and contribute to – College life”. This is not unique to Imperial, UCL and other leading selective universities express similar criteria.

The Russell Group university, the University of Leeds, refers to using a ‘basket of measures in decision making’ when it comes to making offers. So, what does this mean? What additional factors could help students win their ideal place?

Additional assessments, tests and exams

For certain subjects, such as Medicine and Law, students may be required to do additional tests, which are designed to assess their aptitude for the skills required to study these subjects. The UKCAT (UK Clinical Aptitude Test) is open to students considering studying medical and dental degree programmes, the BMAT (BioMedical Admissions Test) is another test for potential students of medicine, dentistry and also veterinary sciences. The LNAT is for students considering a degree in Law.

For those students considering applying to Oxbridge, there is also the Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA), a generic admissions test which is designed to test problem solving and critical thinking skills.

For all of the above, an interview is often required in the latter stages of an application.

An engaging personal statement

A personal statement is a short essay in which students explain why they’re the perfect candidate for the undergraduate degree course they are applying to. Students only write one personal statement, which is seen by all the universities they apply to.

The statement offers them a chance to distinguish themselves from other candidates, showcase their strengths (beyond the academic), as well as their interest in and knowledge of the area of study for which they are applying: students should think about the stories and practical examples they can use to evidence this.

A stand-out interview

If a student is invited to an interview by their prospective university, this is the final chance for them to demonstrate why they would make an excellent candidate for their chosen course — and, what they could bring to the university.

Interviews can range from an oral 'exam', a panel interview or multiple mini interview (MMI), to an informal chat, designed to encourage the applicant to choose that course. The format is also likely to vary according to the course – for example, whilst a Maths candidate may be asked to solve an equation, a student applying for an English Literature course may be asked to comment on a recent book they have read.

Interviews can also vary in length - lasting anything from ten minutes to an hour. Some universities, such as Oxford and Cambridge may require more than one interview and for students to be at the university for at least a day.

Above all, tutors want to see that students genuinely enthusiastic about their subject. They may also ask them to expand on any claims they made in their personal statement which demonstrate their particular interest in the subject so it's wise for students to re-familiarise themselves with their statement before attending the interview.

Mock interviews are a great way to prepare, and are a regular part of the programme at Kings. Remember: asking good questions will impress interviewers just as much as good answers!

Relevant work or professional experience

Particularly for vocational degree programmes such as Medicine, gaining some relevant work experience during their pre-university studies can help students win a place at their preferred university. Work experience will demonstrate to admissions tutors not only a genuine interest in the subject, but also that the applicant is informed about, and committed to, the rigors of their intended course.

As former student Jeremy, who is now studying Medicine at Queen's University Belfast commented:

"After doing my AS level at Kings, I spent 2 months in a hospital doing some volunteering. During those 2 months I was able to shadow doctors, nurses, physical therapists and occupational therapists and I knew from that experience that Medicine was the right choice for me."

Other extra-curricular activities

It is important for students to demonstrate that they understand and possess the skills and attributes relevant to their chosen field of study and how they will contribute to their chosen universities' academic community.

There are many extracurricular activities which further specialist knowledge and interest in an intended field of study, but equally there are others, such as the Duke of Edinburgh Award, which are designed to enhance students’ wider abilities — both academically and on a personal and social level.

Those students who actively pursue extracurricular activities and projects are often viewed as very motivated and keen to take on new challenges and experiences — both of which are attributes which tend to be looked upon favourably.

Excellent references

References are as important as any other documents in a university application, particularly as universities are generally not able to interview every applicant, although they may be compulsory for some courses. References help them to gain an impression of who a student really is, which can be crucial when making a decision about whether to issue an offer. References are normally written by someone who knows the student at school or college, such as an A level tutor, who will – providing they have worked hard and maintained good attendance – be able to vouch for their suitability for their chosen course.

The ideal degree is within reach!

Students shouldn't be daunted by the university application process to leading universities, but it is important to make sure that, not only do they have outstanding academic tuition, but also that they have advice, support and guidance from experts who understand the requirements are about more than just grades.

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Phone: 01865 711 829

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